While gearing up to play a headline show in Lavery’s, Belfast this coming Friday, February 12th, Christian Donaghey, aka Autumns, kindly took some time to talk to State about how his debut LP fell into place over the past 12 months, the artists who have inspired him during this process, and how seeing Lydia Lunch live in Berlin had a profound impact on him.
Hi Christian, you’re right on the cusp of releasing your first long player – when did you start forming the ideas for it? Can you describe how you went about writing and shaping the tracks – for instance, where there ideas you had fully formed or did you evolve tracks over time?
The idea of doing an album came about around late March of last year when I was approached by a label who pitched the idea of me releasing one which I never thought about before, at all. So when I got thinking about it and the fact that Autumns was two years old, I decided to work at it from then on. The process of writing the record has been very cut-up and fluid at the same time. I demoed a bunch of songs from April until October with only having the intention of writing and recording new songs for general use rather than putting a lot of pressure on myself to have every new song being an album song. I think I wrote around 50 songs and only about six of those are on the album and the rest were created on the day of recording or a week or two before that. The songs on the album have been developing since April and some were never worked on and just recorded during studio time which I think will create a great contrast in my vision; as it made me approach songs in new ways. I think there’s no point in making a record if there’s no sense of urgency in it, otherwise you just get lazy and make nonsense.
It’s been roughly a year since your last full release, how much time since then has been spent working on the new record? Did you find you were constantly busy, tinkering away, or did you have a timeframe that allowed you some freedom to explore other projects?
I’m currently at university studying Geography and I’m hoping to do my masters in Applied Marine Geoscience, so a lot of my time has been taken up by that. Some weeks I would do no music and some weeks I wouldn’t stop making music, it all depended on my mood etc. I would never write a song for the sake of it, however I still ended up with a lot of songs which was also very easy to cut down to album tracks. I would say roughly around a month’s worth of song writing and four days of recording was all that was involved with the record. Really easy, everyone should do it, none of this five years of releasing singles nonsense. For this record I gave myself all the freedom and time I wanted to have – of course I had to create some sort of deadline for myself otherwise I would never have finished it. I was incredibly scared of doing it at first but after a few emails with Regis I quickly gathered my confidence and just did it. I have been busy with other projects such as my writing, sonic art and general life things, but I’m hoping it will come out for September.
In terms of the evolution of Autumns as a recording outfit, how would you describe the dynamic of the band? Do you find yourself the conductor, as such, or is there perhaps more diplomacy than say two years ago, even though Autumns remains quite a small, tight-knit operation?
Autumns is my project. I have my friend Marty involved who plays bass for the live shows, but recently he has also contributed some really amazing bass-lines to some of the songs on the album. I’m very lucky that he has no problem doing what I want, I think he’s one of the only people who get what I’m doing and appreciates it for what it is. I still write all the songs, play 90% of the instruments on the recordings and record the majority of the output. For the album however it involved a different process. E.g. The engineer who worked on the album with me also played improvised dissonant saxophone on the record, something I was not capable of doing myself. I’m essentially just utilising my resources very well. It still is and will always remain my project with only a select few allowed to enter its world.
You’ve been quoted as saying that you had been “inspired and obsessed with transgressive authors and philosophers…influenced just as much by the literature I’m reading than the dark industrial, electronic sound that I hear in my head.” (re. ‘The Fall’). Does art, whether it be literature or music, visual or otherwise, often come into your creative process? How do you translate what you see or hear in music?
It’s all a bit frustrating trying to translate the sounds and ideas that you have in your head into a song or the recording of a piece of music. I feel like I’ve only successfully accomplished translating my ideas to their more natural form several times and even at that I’m still never satisfied. I like to think a lot of influences are taken in and reused for the music to hopefully create something new. But of course, it’s all hard to judge.
Who have you been listening to that has had an impact on you, or perhaps even your music over the past year? Is there any artist that has particularly moved you, inspired you, and to what ends?
I’ve been digesting a lot of stuff since starting to work on the record, but none of it was only investigated just for album purposes, it was all because I really connected with it. I’m really into artists like Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, Arthur Rimbaud, SPK, Le Corbusier, Marcel Duchamp and Liaisons Dangereuses. I guess all these artists just inspired me just because of what they have achieved and shaped the world in their own unique ways. They make the world a better place for sure.
What about live shows – have you seen any particularly moving performance that have had an impact on you? In what ways?
The only show I can think of that has had a huge impact on me is seeing Lydia Lunch live in Berlin during our trip over there last summer when we played a few shows – one supporting The Kvb. Lydia Lunch was playing in this old DIY venue with her band Retrovirus and they absolutely changed me. I never seen anything like it, probably the best noise guitarist I’ve ever seen too. She topped it off too when she played a Rowland S Howard song. I also got to meet her after and she was ever so kind. It was pretty special.
In terms of your own live set-up, how easy is it for Autumns to convey that large, cavernous sound from the recordings to a set PA system – are there particular tools or practices you use to effectively transfer the recorded tracks to an audience?
It always depends on the venue and how good the engineer and sound system is. I don’t find it difficult on my end as everything is raging loud and it’s quite chaotic and upsetting for people which is fantastic. There’s no trickery to the live sets, it’s just me, Marty and the Roland 505 drum machine.
Finally, what’s in store for Autumns following the release of the new album?
I’m releasing a tape on Clan Destine Records, I’ll be touring Europe and some other big cities, I’ll be doing some Irish dates too with a live score to a film in a gallery which is still to be announced. Finally I hope for the album to come out by September or the end of the year.
You can catch Autumns this coming Friday, February 12th at Lavery’s, Belfast. Entry is £5 on the door, which includes admission to the Gigantic club night afterwards. Find out more here. Then on February 26, Autumns will play the Black Box, Belfast along with Documenta and The Altered Hours, more details of which can be found here.